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VA Loans in Alachua County, Florida: Take Advantage of the Zero Down Payment

What comes to mind when we mention Alachua County? The chances are high that you picture beautiful green sceneries, diverse cultures, and gifted artisans. And these are enough to convince anyone, service members included, to move to this enchanting region.

But you may plan to spend the rest of your life in Alachua and still be unable to do it because you lack enough money to buy property in the region. This issue is not uncommon. Fortunately, there’s a solution: VA (Veterans Affairs) home loan programs.

VA loans are for service members, vets, and surviving spouses that need funding to transition to homeownership. These mortgages are like manna from heaven in a country where, on any given night, approximately 40,000 veterans are shelterless.

If you want to know more about VA home loans, who they are for, and their benefits, you’re in the right place. This article will also introduce you to numerous reasons to buy a home in Alachua using a VA loan.

Let’s dive in.


An Overview of VA Loans

VA loans are financial solutions that help eligible veterans, surviving spouses, and active-duty service members purchase homes. The best thing is that these loans come with zero down payment, flexible credit requirements, lower interest rates, and no private mortgage insurance (PMI).

If you don’t know yet, VA home loans are offered through the US Department of Veterans Affairs. And the loan programs have a rich history that goes as far back as 1944.

Note that VA loans primarily come from private lending institutions like banks and mortgage companies. The VA’s role, in this case, is to enable lenders to finance applicants by guaranteeing them against defaulters.

Currently, VA guarantees as much as 50% of a home loan that is $45,000 or lower. On the other hand, the minimum guarantee amount for VA loans exceeding $45,000 is $22,500. Check out the VA-guaranteed guidelines for more.

The Veterans Affairs may act as a mortgage lender when VA direct home loans are involved. That means applicants can work directly with the platform. Plus, VA manages all direct home loans. So, if you don’t like interacting with private lenders, this may be ideal.

VA home loan programs have made homeownership more than a pipe dream for 24 million+ service members since 1944.


VA Loan Types

Four VA loan options are available today - Purchase loans, Native American direct loans, cash-out refinance loans, and interest rate reduction refinance loans (IRRRLs).


Purchase Loans

A VA-backed purchase loan is a mortgage solution that an eligible borrower can use to buy a single-family home with no more than four units or a condo in a VA-approved complex.

And if you plan to use this loan to purchase a new home and make improvements or build from the ground up, the VA won’t stand in your way. The same applies if you wish to incorporate new features that make your dwellings more energy efficient, including solar panels.

Home purchase loans sound incredible. But before you submit your application and exploit them, check if you satisfy all eligibility requirements.

Lenders award purchase loans to participants with relevant certificates of eligibility (COE). That isn’t all. On top of that, borrowers can only be eligible if they meet all requirements (credit, income, etc.) stipulated by the Veterans Affairs home loan program and private lenders.

The best thing about purchase loans is they are accessible to first-time home buyers. Moreover, borrowers can still use VA loan benefits again after refinancing or selling properties they bought with VA-backed mortgages.

To get a purchase loan and use it to purchase a home:

  • Apply for a VA-backed COE
  • Examine your finances
  • Determine the amount you are ready to spend on a mortgage
  • Pick a suitable lender
  • Meet real estate agents
  • Shop for a home
  • Prepare and sign a purchase agreement
  • Get the property appraised and inspected
  • Review all pre-closing terms
  • Buy the house and move in

Native American Direct Loans

The Native American Direct Loan program (NADL) is tailored for Native American vets and non-Native American service members married to Native American spouses.

Before we proceed, who are Native Americans?

Native Americans go by many names, including indigenous Americans, American Indians, and Native Alaskans. Generally, the US Census defines these people as individuals with origins that can be traced back to the original inhabitants of South and North America, Central America included.

If you have everything needed to be called an indigenous or native American, you can purchase, construct, or renovate a house on federal trust land using a loan from NADL. But, before that happens, there are other requirements you must meet besides being a native American. First and foremost, you can’t get a Native American direct loan without a certificate of eligibility.

In addition, the NADL program is for borrowers whose tribal governments have signed an agreement or MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Veterans Affairs. The agreement’s or MOU’s primary objective is to explain how the program is expected to work on involved trust lands.

NADL also requires eligible participants to meet minimum credit standards and prove they earn enough to make timely mortgage payments and cover all costs that come with homeownership.

If you satisfy all NADL requirements and want to apply for a Native American direct loan, do the following:

  • Apply for a home loan COE
  • Contact your state’s regional loan center
  • Begin the process

Cash-out Refinance Loans

Cash-out refinance loans are VA-backed solutions that let applicants replace existing loans with new ones and different conditions. So, if you have an existing mortgage that you need to exchange for one with more favorable terms, this option should be your go-to.

Furthermore, you can use a cash-out refinance loan to convert home equity into cash. That makes this option a godsend whenever you have a sizable project, like renovation or paying tuition, which demands a substantial amount of money.

But, to be eligible for a cash-out refinance loan, you must possess a COE, meet the VA’s / your lender’s requirements, and be willing to reside in the property you plan to refinance with the mortgage.

To get a cash-out refinance loan backed by Veterans Affairs:

  • Choose a certified lender
  • Apply for a Certificate of Eligibility
  • Give all necessary documents and details to your lender
  • Follow your lender’s loan closing process
  • Cover closing costs

Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans (IRRRLs)

An IRRRL or a “streamline” loan is a solution you can use to turn an ARM (adjustable-rate mortgage) into a fixed-rate mortgage. Why would anyone do that? Well, fixed-rate mortgages come with predictable payments. On the contrary, market shifts and trends often make ARMs unpredictable.

As you may have already gathered from the title, an interest rate reduction is a primary feature in IRRRLs. So, applying for this loan is highly advisable to lower monthly mortgage payments. But before you do, note that IRRRL isn’t for everyone. If you want to get this loan, ensure you have an existing VA-guaranteed home loan.

The VA also requires eligible applicants to certify that they currently occupy or used to reside in the house covered by the existing loan.

The process for acquiring an IRRRL is simple and quick. Just:

  • Find an approved lender
  • Submit necessary info to your lender
  • Follow your lender’s IRRRL loan closing process
  • Pay closing costs

Benefits of VA Loans

According to conventional wisdom, mortgages are good debt since homes appreciate over time. Hard to argue with that. However, that doesn’t mean you should take a loan and use it to become a homeowner without forethought. Weigh everything carefully to avoid making a mistake that’ll follow you for the rest of your life.

That being said, here are several points that make VA home loans worth consideration:


No Down Payment

Did you know that homebuyers often have to put down around 6% of the home price when applying for conventional loans? And if you have a poor credit score, the percentage is much higher. Sadly, many veterans and service members take years to save enough to pay a down payment, and some never manage to do it.

If you want to transition to homeownership and are worried about saving for a down payment, we have some good news: you don’t need a down payment to get a VA home loan. But, to enjoy this advantage, the home you plan to buy must have a sales price equal to or less than the appraised value.

However, a VA home loan attracts a funding fee, i.e., a one-time payment you are supposed to make on a direct or VA-backed home loan.


Better Interest Rates

The current rates for 30-year and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages are around 5.3% and 4.4%, respectively. Why? If you think this is a bit high, try VA home loans instead of conventional mortgages.

VA home loan rates are considerably lower. Currently, the national averages for 30-year and 15-year fixed-rate VA purchase loans are roughly 4.9% and 4.8%, respectively.

Better interest rates should be enough reason to apply for a VA loan because it means more spending money and lower monthly payments.


Seller Concessions

The VA allows property sellers to cover 4% or less of the loan amount on behalf of the buyers. That is known as seller concessions. So, if your finances run short before you cover all closing costs, the party selling their home may help you out.

The seller concessions allowed by VA home loan programs include tax prepayments and the funding fee. The VA also allows sellers to pay off credit balances and much more.


A girl carrying cardboard box to new house with military father


Who Qualifies for VA Loans in Alachua County, Florida?

You may qualify for a VA home loan in Alachua County if:


You meet service requirements

VA home loans are for active-duty service members who have continuously served for a minimum of 90 days without taking any breaks. You may apply for a VA home loan if your service provision meets this requirement.

However, if you are a veteran, your eligibility will be determined by when you served. For instance, you may qualify for a VA home loan if you were involved in WWII for 90 days or more.


You have a COE

We can’t stress this enough - you need a VA certificate of eligibility to apply for a VA home loan. Without it, getting financing from the programs available will be impossible.

If you don’t have a relevant COE, visit eBenefits and request one. Get all the info you need to apply for a COE from the VA guidelines.


You have good credit

The good news is that the VA has no set minimum credit score for borrowers. The bad news is the platform lets lenders review your loan profile, and most of these institutions want to see scores above 620.

But if you have bad credit, all is not lost. Some lenders may be willing to go below the minimum cutoff under certain conditions. For instance, you may get a VA loan with poor credit history if you can prove a service-connected disability or active-duty deployment contributed to the issue.


Should Veterans Live in Alachua County, Florida?

Veterans should consider buying homes in Alachua County because the area allows residents to enjoy the following outdoor activities:


Scuba Diving

Did you know that scuba diving helps veterans fight physical pain? That’s right. And according to experts, this activity also acts as a psychological outlet for service members tackling issues like trauma and stress.

But scuba diving isn’t solely for veterans and service members. Your family and loved ones too can enjoy this recreational sport, improve their health, and learn essential life skills.

Alachua County has numerous scuba diving sites, including the infamous family-owned Scuba Monkey Dive Center. So, if you are a fan or plan to join this world, living in this region will give you ample opportunity to dive and revel.


Fishing

Anybody can fish and reap countless physical and psychological benefits. But few people stand to gain more from this activity than veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Experts recommend this pastime to vets who have PTSD because it’s profoundly relaxing and cathartic. That makes it indispensable in lessening anxiety, dealing with frustration, and reconnecting, recharging, and reflecting.

Alachua County is home to many reputable fishing spots, ranging from Lake Alice and Palm Point to Orange Lake and Cedar Key. So, when you become a resident of this area, catching diverse fish species, including trout and largemouth bass, won’t be a problem.


Hiking

Nature supports emotional health and healing. Therefore, it only follows that hiking in natural environments is good for everyone’s health.

You can start hiking today and enjoy positive outcomes like improved heart health, stronger muscles, better sleep quality, and reduced depression.

Besides, this activity lets all sorts of people, veterans included, process their thoughts in calm and peaceful settings. That leads to better mental health and frees service members from traumatic experiences they often relive daily.

What does all this have to do with Alachua County? Alachua has myriad hiking trails. These include the San Felasco Hammock Cut-Off, Turkey Creek Hammock Loop, and Tung Nut and Meadow View Loop.


Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife viewing is a popular recreation today. Its popularity arises from the activity enabling people to visit fabulous places and create lifelong memories. But veterans reap more from this coveted activity.

Most vets find hope and healing on public lands. That is why you too should visit these places and experience wildlife. And Alachua has many of these, including Butterfly Rainforest, La Chua Trail, and Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.


Kayaking

Alachua County is chock-full of fantastic kayaking sites. These include Newnans Lake Forest and Santa Fe River. And the best part is several kayak rental companies currently operate in the area, so you don’t necessarily need to own gear to enjoy this activity.

If you wonder whether kayaking benefits veterans, the short answer is yes. Why? A veteran can accrue various pros from kayaking, including better core strength, focus, and endurance. This activity is not only a ton of fun but also vital for physical and mental health.


Ready to Move to Alachua County?

If you are ready to become a resident of Alachua County and immerse yourself in outdoor activities like fishing, swimming, kayaking, and hiking, don’t let anything stop you. Especially the inability to scrape together enough to put down on a home.

If you are an eligible service member or veteran, apply for a zero down payment VA loan today and use it to buy a home in Alachua County. All the best!

With over 50 years of mortgage industry experience, we are here to help you achieve the American dream of owning a home. We strive to provide the best education before, during, and after you buy a home. Our advice is based on experience with Phil Ganz and Team closing over One billion dollars and helping countless families.

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